Mandy Shunnarah

the clamshell

The weight is in the shoulders—
slumped, hunched, round as a clamshell.
I waded into a creek once & spotted the sheen
through mud-cloud water. Cracked open,
her freshwater pearl long drifted on the riffles;
the barren mother, hollowed out, twinkled.
The eyesocket is a clamshell scientists call
the orbital bones. Grief is an orbit so we weep
from there—circling like a satellite, a celestial
nautilus on its prescribed track. In the scoop
of lacrimosa bone, tears forge in friction
like pearls, both coerced from their harbors
by strain. Pick your pain up by the shell & rinse
in the waters where it once was nourished.
When you see the treasure lost, look again
& find the iridescent gleam—resilient as stars.

Mandy Shunnarah (they/them) is an Alabama-born Appalachian and Palestinian-American writer who now calls Columbus, Ohio, home. Their essays, poetry, and short stories have been published in The New York Times, Electric Literature, The Rumpus, and others. Their first book, Midwest Shreds: Skating Through America’s Heartland, is forthcoming from Belt Publishing. Read more at